Today is the feast of St. Philip Neri, my confirmation patron. Love this guy! He is patron of joy. Thinking about his life, I’ve been thinking today about some sacred uses of humor and joy….
- Humor helps us be humble. St. Philip Neris’ jovial side hid his brilliance and his holiness. He kept busy with people all day, but at night he would patrol the city and especially the catacombs in humble prayer. He loved to pray quietly. He was brilliant, too. But, looking at the active and rather goofy fellow he was during the day, many might never have noticed his holiness and brilliance. Such was his humility.
- Humor helps us lighten up. It was a serious time in the Church, but Philip’s humor helped him stay happy and holy in the midst of it all, not to be overwhelmed by anxieties. Philip lived some 500 years ago and was the “apostle of Rome.” You see, he had wanted to be a missionary but God’s plan was that he be a missionary in Rome. So he did. Rome needed him, too, because the sixteenth century was a serious time for the Church. Tensions were high, what with the reformation and counter reformation and schismatics and so on. It was St. Philip Neri whose smiles, jokes, laughter and humanity that kept the church sane and holy during the mess that was going on. We all could stand to lighten up a bit!
- Humor helps us evangelize. The Church does not need any more dreary saints, said Teresa of Avila. What attracts people to God is a happy spirit. No one has ever been converted by a syllogism. But a smile? You bet. Philip never intended to found a religious order, but the Oratorian “order” just happened to kind of form around him.
- Humor helps us love. Here’s this: “He lived the life of a holy layman for the next ten years when on the eve of Pentecost in 1544, while praying for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he had a mystical experience in which a ball of fire seemed to enter his mouth and travel down to his heart, filling him with so much joy and pain that he was thrown to the ground. When he awoke, two of his ribs were broken, and it was later discovered at the time of his autopsy that they were broken by the sudden expansion of his heart.” Few saints loved more deeply and widely than Philip Neri….
O holy St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.